Are you among those who think pastors have a lot of money these days? Take Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta. He’s getting ready to move from his lavish $2.2-million mansion in early May. This move comes after the 66-year-old Catholic pastor was criticized for having such a posh lifestyle, one that is not in line with the example set by the extremely frugal Pope Francis.
He apologized for an error in judgment and promised to move from the Tudor-style Buckhead estate, which was built with money left by a wealthy parishioner who died in 2011.
Gregory’s case however only highlights a growing trend of black pastors, regardless of denomination, living lavish lifestyles.
According to Morris Tipton of the National Baptist Convention, churches need to put in a system of checks and balances.
“Most churches set their own guidelines and standards on how they are going to deal with compensating their pastor,” he told The Grio. “The problem comes in when a pastor seeks to live a lavish lifestyle off the congregation.”
“Tithes and offerings should be a storehouse for those that have fallen through the cracks,” added Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the SCLC Georgia Chapter. “The problem is in some churches pastors have stopped being pastors and turned themselves into CEOs.”
There is a difference says Tipton between successful preachers and those who abuse money and power. And, some preachers are well underpaid and over the years more have become vocal about their low salaries.
“Not first and foremost, but just making sure that they and their families needs are met also,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with that.”
Then there are others who shun being paid huge salaries. Take Rev. Kenneth Adkins who oversees a 400-member church but has never collected a salary. He says the monies collected at Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Georgia, should be used to better the community.
“I believe pastors should get paid, but I choose not to get a salary because it’s important for me to use much of the resources to help other people,” said Adkins, who founded his church in 2010. He adds that he makes his money through his business.
So while there are some pastors living high on the altar, there are others who are following the cause of the black church to aid its congregations–and not the other way around.